Why Do We Often Overlook Depression In The Elderly?

senior-woman-watering-flowersDespite what some might assume, depression is not a natural part of aging. There are a number of difficult scenarios that accompany growing old. These include a greater dependence on others, the loss of family and friends, and physical disabilities. Depression can be a byproduct of those complications, but depression is not something that goes hand in hand with aging. In fact, if depression within the elderly is recognized and treated, the recovery rate is upwards of 80 percent.

Diagnosis is easier said than done

Part of the problem is that identifying depression in people over the age of 65 is easier said than done. Despite the fact that clinical depression is one of the more common medical illnesses on the planet, it can be an elusive diagnosis for the elderly. For starters, the cognitive and physical ailments that an older person may suffer from can mask the symptoms of depression. In addition, the fact that they have no one to talk to about it or the negative social stigma associated with it can make older people hesitant to seek treatment for depression. Subsequently, healthcare providers and caregivers often overlook depression in seniors.

Depression and the body-mind connection

Ignoring the innate connection between the body and the mind is the primary reason that depression in older patients is often overlooked. Old age is associated with different types of aches and pains. Eyesight diminishes, teeth wear down, arthritis stiffens our joints, and the mind suffers from a loss of independence and mobility.

More strong links to geriatric depression are heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Beyond that, the medications that we use to treat these late onset ailments may change our brain chemistry – which can lead to depression.

As people get older, their brains undergo various changes. This includes damaged blood vessels, a smaller cerebral cortex, and a decreased amount of neurotransmitters. For older patients, the interaction between mental and physical health may obscure depression. Only one-in-six cases of depression in the elderly gets adequate attention. Rather than expressing a change in their mood, the elderly are far more likely to report physical ailments instead. They may complain about trouble sleeping or a noticeable increase in irritability.

The importance of proper care

Even in some traditional nursing homes, the staff may not be trained to identify the signs of geriatric depression. Because of the insufficient attention to mental health and limited time available, routine exams with a primary care physician may also fail to establish the problem.

This is why it is important that there is a healthy living environment and solid support network available. It is important to move away from the insistence that depression is a natural part of growing old. This is why it is imperative that you find a facility that can help recognize the symptoms of depression in the elderly. We recommend looking at the listings at www.carltonseniorliving.com to find care options that can help make a difference.

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